Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wearables, Virtual Field Trips, and TESOL With Technology

“What if I was to say that our inability to completely get our head around all these concepts and how they work is a limitation of this technology, which is the static page, or the explanation through written text. However, if you were to take and leverage simulation and interactivity to show what you can’t see, and to experience these things in real time, imagine what it might be like.”

A TEDx Talk I watched recently was about Unboxing education through gaming, playing, and making. Prior to presenting a virtual simulation, Lucien Vattel posed the aforementioned thought worth contemplating. Now, before you jump in blindly, harp on Vattel or question me about the possibilities, watch the talk and witness how he also instructed the audience in a scientific concept. He did this by utilizing the medium of himself with the technology of the human body though there was cutting edge technology at his disposal.

Google Glass showed up some years ago, and it seems to be continuing in development while it’s being used on factory floors. Some are wanting Apple to join in on innovating hearing aids. Where do these wearables that Vattel and others speak of fit within education? How will society view them? For merely entertainment and/or improving the quality of life for the world? It’s the quality of life and the education of those in my classroom that I have begun to consider the place that wearable technology could have. In my opinion, Chinese education is not close to embracing it since most schools don’t have a plan on how to incorporate phones, devices, or personal computers. I saw 3D printers at an experimental school once, but the connections weren’t operational. Nobody seemed to mind that nothing was being constructed for the scores of people visiting that day. It was like the future was stuck and not a single person objected.

With the current condition the way that it is, coding, programming, and more modern technology have found their ways into Chinese schools by being an after-school activity, or a school club. If I were to encompass wearable tech into my personal teaching, I would be waiting for a while. If educators or leaders in innovation in China want students to be prepared, they should first peel back the layers of historical, cultural, and traditional influences that lead to the ever-so-popular thought of how technology does much more harm than good in learning. I have never heard of wearables even mentioned until recently and after searching what the China Daily has reported on its place in advancements. Seems that while tech like these mind-blowing, futuristic gadgets created in China are being presented, at the same time VR is also being proven as “effective” in drug rehab. Therefore, like the US and many other countries worldwide, society and technology are moving forward. Education is behind the game. In its entirety, that’s not such a bad thing, but that topic is for another time.

One way that educators can launch forward is through Virtual Field Trips. Kyle Schutt defines a VFT as when “an educator leverages digital content and educational technologies to take educators and students beyond their classroom walls to meet people and see places they might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience.” Again, I hadn’t heard of these either until recently, and it reminded me of when my sixth graders and I were learning about The Underground Railroad. National Geographic provided an online interactive where the students could envision themselves as slaves on the run for Canada but had to avoid hunters, arrive safely at “stations,” and go through authentic emotional and psychological experiences. Though this wasn’t even a 3D/4D movie, it was an interesting class together exploring unknown territory and providing a dimension unmet before. It has me thinking what “advanced adventure” could be possible with my sixth graders next semester or my high school health class. (Side note: Connecting it to health has me recall being on a ride at Disney once where we were riding inside the human body.) Oh, the possibilities…Education World, Scholastic, and others have great resources for teachers.

These two topics have led me to a question I’ve been asking myself as a teacher. With technology, am I a user or integrator?

I would like to keep developing as a teacher who maintains pedagogy before technology integration, and through that continue to seamlessly embrace the utilization of educational technology most suitable. Currently, at the new school I work at, this is somewhat arduous seeing that the curriculum, students, and available technology (a smart board) is all novel too. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been mulling over how to improve. When referring to the picture above, I undeniably integrate technology in my classes while there are certainly some points I’d fall under using technology. Resources such as these push me to first examine my teaching, dissect the root of any problems I discover, and construct plans on how I can take steps toward practical changes. Each stride allows me to then apply proper critical thinking within the judgments I make to transform my teaching.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Improving the Flipped Classroom in China

One of the teaching methods I have applied, analyzed, and been reflecting on this school year is that of the flipped classroom. It started out as an Action Research project that I simply placed hope in since I wasn’t sure how students in a bilingual school in China would respond. What happened beforehand, during the implementation, and afterward transpired in ways that inspired me to move forward. Part of progress is moving into the unknown, and before continuing to do so I checked out some blogs and well-known sites for any tips or suggestions when employing the flipped classroom.

One idea I received was from a first-grade teacher. Her students were too young to obtain internet access in the evenings. Therefore, she thought outside the box, and she did what she referred to as the “in-class flip.” She recorded and prepared the directions and examples for a project, and then made the video (and more thereafter) available to her students in order that they could independently look back to those instead of her. This provided her as the teacher to “work with individuals and small groups to address a range of learning styles and abilities.” For more details and steps on that, check out Creative Educator, where some teachers are Flipping the Elementary Classroom.

One of several suggestions from Teach Starter was to start with one lesson to flip in an area you as the teacher feel comfortable with. I’m wondering now if that’s the best piece of advice for everyone when mulling over the start of flipping one’s classroom. When I initially tried out the method, I actually had a class do it for a complete chapter that ended up lasting about three straight weeks with at least 2-3 videos a week. The kinks for the video-watching were mostly taken care of before the chapter began, as the rest were resolved after the first class period. From there on out to the end, the students knew the expectations with the short and succinct videos within our imperfect system, and they gave it all they had. It was a few fun weeks, but I’m not sure we (the students and I) would’ve revealed all that we did with one single time of flipping. The students and I discovered quite a bit through the experience, and it wasn’t just about our content. Thus, in my opinion, I’d say “yes” to the educator who asks, “Does Flipped Learning in a Primary Classroom Really Work?” Though there are more variables and other options a teacher should consider in accordance with one’s context before taking the leap since I wonder if there could be situations where it wouldn’t be suitable.

My students shared a healthy outlook on learning in that they control their learning, and the teacher is there to guide, correct, or challenge thinking within the subject and its interconnectedness to other subjects and, ultimately, life. The flipped videos were a nice substitute for the traditional homework that the students receive daily, and they expressed their desire for the videos since the beginning for they provided foundations for the classes we met face to face. The content in the videos was starting points for learning as well, and sometimes the students even did a little independent research of their own beforehand. Ultimately, flipping the classroom has felt like a success in professional and personal ways through the year, but that doesn’t mean I should stop growing and obtaining wisdom from experts on the issue. (Hence, the two hyperlinks in this paragraph stem from Jon Bergmann.)

Jon Bergmann on "What is Flipped Learning?" on Common Sense Media

Here are some more analyses on the flipped classroom.

What do you think?

Would you incorporate or have you implemented the flipped classroom? If yes, what recommendations do you have? If no, why not?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gamification in the K-6 Classroom?

When it comes to gamification, I’m not going to act like I’m an expert. In fact, I’d identify myself as somewhat of a newb, or a rookie, and I'm definitely open to questions and others' thoughts. It’s certainly nice to have a topic of study such as this in EdTech Trends and Issues since I don’t recall having done extreme research on it before. Gamification will now be a focus on my mind after checking out various modes of resources that discuss it in detail. Initially, the thought of its place in the K-6 classroom was mixed. I could see the pros, but I could simultaneously see the cons.

Thankfully, there is not one right way to educate a child. Some of the joys of being a teacher include discovering more about and knowing your context (Cameron-Rogers & Carr, as cited in Barkastas & Bertram, 2016)*, content, and most importantly, your students.

While processing some information from those who seem to be experts (as well as some amateurs) on the issue, I have gathered that there are various ways a teacher could organize one’s classroom or teaching in a gamified fashion. It’s not about playing games all day or centering your class entirely on being run like a game. There are differing definitions of gamification. Karl Kapp (2014) provides a simple one in that it “uses the elements of games to motivate and engage the learner” (see below for more).

Upon listening to Kapp had me wonder, how much related to gaming would a student or class need in order to improve or reignite their motivation or engagement? Would it be more for the teacher’s sake to simply help manage a class? Every teacher’s situation is different. That much is true. Therefore, it’s better to first know the whole situation. In a recent blog, Kapp mentioned the resurgence of board and card games. Needless to say, video games are not to be the sole definition or method of gaming in education. Yet again, another assumption I had made that was broken by the act of becoming more informed.

What I personally am still having a hard time separating (if indeed they are to be separated) are games, competition, and extrinsic rewards. If the learners and their culture have a foundation as well as a continual reiteration of the competition aspect, I would not see gamification as a positive in the learning process. In my opinion as an amateur gamer and professional educator, this is a bigger deal than the possibility of a student formulating an addiction, or over-engagement, though knowing the warning signs or symptoms would be vital to any person (Young, 2009)**. Part of that slight concern would be of students also creating this expectation of extrinsic rewards. At the same time, I know students will inevitably experience rewards in life, but I wouldn’t want extrinsic ones to be their prime motivation or engagement for going into a career or helping others.

All that to say, I wouldn’t say that gamification is wrong or right. That’d be too black and white without considering a teacher’s particular scenario or possible setup. It certainly could have a place in learning if it were to be implemented correctly and in a way that does not compromise with negative effects on students, learning, and their overall health in the long-term.

Even if gamification wouldn’t be utilized in the classroom, I’d highly recommend somehow incorporating games for social interaction and collaborative reasons as well as guiding students in how they could self-identify stages of flow theory when it happens in their lives. In fact, gaming would be one of at least a few ways I’d recommend when directing students in their metacognition.

What do you think? Why or why not? What are some resources you'd recommend?

Some resources I've found so far include Gamification in Learning and Education (Burton, Kim, Lockee, & Song, 2018) and Gamify (Burke, 2014). There's more out there by Kapp too.

*Barkastas, T. & Bertram, A.R. (2016). Global learning in the 21st century (Global education in the 21st century series: Volume 1). Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
**Young, K. (2009). Understanding online gaming addiction and treatment issues for adolescents. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 37(5), 355–372. doi: 10.1080/01926180902942191